“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons – a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute – the function of a reasoning mind.
“But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group is only a compromise or an average drawn from many individual minds. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act – the process of reason – must be performed by each person alone. We can divide a meal among many. We cannot divide it in a collective stomach. No one can use their lungs to breathe for another. No one can use their brain to think for another. All the functions of body and mind are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.
“We inherit the products of the thought of others. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes a product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single individuals. That which it creates is the property of the creator. People learn from one another. But all the learning is only the exchange of material. No one can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.
“Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything we need has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: we can survive in only one of two ways – by the independent work of our own minds or as parasites fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite steals.
“The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of people.
“The basic need of the creator is independence. (personal freedom). The reasoning mind requires independence in function and motive. To a creator, all relations with others are secondary.
“The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with others so he can be fed. He places relations first. He declares that people exist in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.
“Altruism is the doctrine which demands that people live for others and places others above self.
“The person who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption.
“No one can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of exploitation and reversed the base of mankind’s moral principles. We have been taught every precept that destroys the creator. We have been taught dependence as a virtue.
“We have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil and selflessness the ideal of virtue.
“But the choice is not domination or self-sacrifice. The choice is independence or dependence. The code of the creator or the code of the second-hander. This is the basic issue. Upon it rests the alternative of life or death. (or, freedom or slavery).
“Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: in all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone. People exchange their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests agree and they both desire the exchange. If they do not desire it, they are not forced to deal with each other. They seek further. This is the only possible form of relationship between equals. Anything else is a relation of slave to master, or victim to executioner.
“Every creative job is achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought. An architect requires a great many people to erect his building. But he does not ask them to vote on his design. They work together by free agreement and each is free in his proper function. An architect uses steel, glass and concrete produced by others. But the materials remain just so much steel, glass and concrete until he touches them. What he does with them is his individual product and his individual property. This is the only pattern for proper co-operation among people.
“A person thinks and works alone. A person cannot rob, exploit or rule alone. Robbery, exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. They are the province of the second-hander.
“Rulers are not creators. They create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit. The form of dependence does not matter.
“From the beginning of history, the two antagonists have stood face to face: the creator and the second-hander. When the first creator invented the wheel, the first second-hander invented altruism.
“The creator – denied, opposed, persecuted, exploited – went on, moved forward and carried all humanity along on his energy. The second-hander contributed nothing to the process except impediments. The contest has another name: the individual against the collective. (or, personalism versus socialism)
“The ‘common good’ of a collective – a race, a class, a state – was the claim and justification of every tyranny ever established. Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive. Has any act of selfishness ever equaled the carnage perpetrated by disciples of altruism? Does the fault lie in man’s hypocrisy or in the nature of the principle? The most dreadful butchers were the most sincere. They believed in the perfect society reached through the guillotine or the firing squad. (or the death camp or the gulag or the re-education camp) Nobody questioned their right to murder since they were murdering for an altruistic purpose. It was accepted that people must be sacrificed for other people. Actors change, but the course of the tragedy remains the same: an altruist who starts with declarations of love for mankind and ends with a sea of blood. It goes on and will go on so long as people believe that an action is good if it is unselfish. That permits the altruist to act and forces his victims to bear it. The leaders of collectivist (liberal-socialist-democrat) movements ask nothing for themselves. But observe the results.
“It is an ancient conflict. Mankind has come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of the tribe. Civilization is the process of setting people free from people.
“Now, in our age, collectivism, the rule of the second-hander and second-rater, the ancient monster, has broken loose and is running amuck. It has brought men to a level of intellectual indecency never equaled on earth. It has reached a scale of horror without precedent. It has poisoned every mind. It has swallowed most of Europe. It is engulfing our country.
The above was abridged and modified from, and italics inserted in, the original contained in Ayn Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” first published in 1943, by C.W. Conn, Dec. 20, 2008.Tags: the fountainhead